I write because what if as I began to piece together the first white gossamer shreds of memory, they are ripped away, leaving nothing of my beginnings by blackness, a slight limp and a distinctive laugh?

I have no memory of my original mothers voice, but there were times growing up when a familiar intonation, a wind blown conversation brought on a sharp intake of breath, and an almost unstoppable need to find its origin. I was caught between the desire to follow the voice and the dark shadow of abandonment. It set the rhythm of my days and it took a lifetime to change it.

For the first 40 years of my life, my bloodline was unknown to me, grafted onto a branch of English archbishops, genealogists, itinerant Norwegian weavers , professors, inventors, explorers, restless men, and unhappy women.

But the music of my beginnings would not let me be. It hummed through open windows, piped up through my bare feet and plucked my untamed hair. It came in the drone of the dulcimers strings in the songs of Ann Grimes, an early collector of Appalachia, music, and mother of my best friend, Sally. It came out in a cadence of a Carney man’s call, in the fire lit stories the tramps and travelers told stopping by the Olentangy River on their seasonal journey from southern mountains. It arrived in the bales of freshly shorn sheep‘s fleeces, in the whirl of the spinning wheel, and the sissing sound the threads made as they slipped through the hand set a reeds of a 100 year old loom. All these things were carefully piled at the edge of memory. They so changed the hue of the blackness that abandonment lost its power.

I stepped beyond the carefully laid out prison walls of my beginning to start the journey.

My earliest memories revolved around a black emptiness from whose edges blew a dry, cold ice like mist. When I was older and could use the dictionary, I was able to name this place which lies back of the beyond.

It was oblivion, the state of being forgotten.

My challenges are time, beginnings and endings….

Will I, at 82 be able to put all I found, in readable form.


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Susan... it means so much to me that you've joined this project as a contributor, and especially now in these tender days after the end of our rich Hagitude year. I already loved and admired your writing from what you have shared on that forum, but to receive this very complete and powerful piece of prose here, now? If your last line has a silent question:

'Will I, at 82, be able to put all I found, in readable form?

My answer, without hesitation, is: Yes. Yes. You already are. This is readable. This has form, and force. You have given us a sense of place, and a sense too of a mystery in your life that we, your readers, will care to learn more about. That will speak to similar, differently located puzzles in our own lives.

With regard to age: Do you know Florida Scott-Maxwell's The Measure of My Days? It's hard to get here in the UK but second-hand copies might be easier where you are. Also not easy to get but worthwhile: Hope L Bourne's Wild Harvest (she was a woman who lived alone & self-sufficient on Exmoor). The artist Anne Truitt's journal series also covers her 70s I believe. And May Sarton's published diaries cover her 80s as well as earlier decades. These to give you a sense of peers - but in other respects, I feel your voice and your themes have much in common with younger writers I admire immensely: Melissa Febos, Carmen Maria Machado... one of the joys of writing is that we can write away from as well as out of our age, I think...

I'm not curating responses to this month's theme over on the cure for sleep website as I usually do as I'm wanting to use my time to give more detailed feedback and suggestions than I normally do. But any contributions to themes in the archive that (I hope!) you make will be curated as normal.


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Hi Susan I've just read your beautiful piece. Your words dance through my mind like lyrics. You've said so much about pain and emptiness, yet your words are filled with hope.

And to answer your question - Yes, I think and feel you are already doing just that.

Thank you for sharing

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...and thank you to you, Shazz, for reading and responding this way to Susan's words. Each time members of the project do this for one another, it amplifies and deepens the power of what we're all doing here: having a sense of readers other than me makes it so much more valuable for contributors. xx

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Shazz. My author self felt heard by your comments and encouraged! A shy smile escaped from this wrinkled old face. Gratitude


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Oct 5, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Wow! I made sure not to read what anyone else wrote until I posted something because I didn't want to be intimidated. I'm glad I made that choice because this is simply beautiful. The women in my life were not able to set an example of retaining a vitality while aging so I search out examples on my own....and this is just that, reassurance of the beauty in aging and the creativity that remains. This is poetic and heartfelt and and lovely. I want to read more! xx

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I owe the elders in my life so much gratitude...both those who continued to do the “one foot in front of the other” dance and those who took to their beds. Perhaps the most memorable one was an artist, a mentor, and in her final years put down her brush and never painted again because her work no longer met her critical eye. And I saw the carving away of extraneous strokes, pure line. And I promised my self that would not happen... that I would die with pen, brush, needle in hand. And so...

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Oh my goodness, this is amazing, I would love to read more, it is so rich and intoxicating and exciting...it feels like the first chapter of something wonderful and profound...please go on...

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Purge the panic and surge with joy

I write because I need to be consumed and subsumed by something bigger than my entity. I want to mend the severance of my grief and bridge a chasm of desolation with curiosity and exploration. I want to reach through the shrouds of loneliness and beyond the masks of coping to empathy for others. I write because I have no other God to call upon for safety, succour, or salvation.

Every morning I wake up to lumpy thoughts swirling into syllables which then mould themselves as words. When I write, I face my irascible monsters and turn them into pets. I listen to them, stroke them and encircle them with love as they doze by my side. I am grateful for my fears, grief, loss and loneliness because each facet plays it’s part to rebuild, renew, restore me. Writing helps me to pause my judgements and cultivate compassion, not just for other people, but also for my past, present and future self. Through writing, I have learned to tell my truth in a way that I’ve never had the courage to reveal verbally. I think of the process as a loving labour like revealing a rough gemstone’s glory by cutting, polishing, setting and wearing.

I’m challenged by ineptitude, self-doubts and a total absence of hope to write one single word of worth. Writing questions my validity, yet words ratify my existence. There are days when I am overwhelmed by doubt and paralysed by fear, preventing me from writing. I ask myself “Why is this hard and what am I scared of?” Then, I capture all codswallop tumbling from my mind and give my brain free reign and rein to splurge it’s jumbled pain. Just like the contents of a drawer tipped upon the floor, each thought is gathered, studied and recorded. Emotions are woven into words to create a cord to form a chord for a reader.

The next phase is taking my piece to my writing group for feedback. When joining such a group was first suggested I reacted with a severe panic attack. Within an hour of internet research I’d found a group online and had approached the organiser for joining details. It’s the only way I know to overcome my anxieties. Within twenty-four hours I was sitting in front of my computer listening to incredible people reading their work and listening to feedback. It took me a month before I set myself the goal of presenting a piece to the group. Now, I look forward to people telling me what they need more of and where they think I can improve. I relish the exposure a lazy or cliched sentence and immediately get excited about how I can re-write, improve and think deeper about what I really want to convey and how best to deliver. Despite my craving for connection, I’m filled with awe when others express that I have touched them.

Shazz Jamieson-Evans

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Shazz! What a blast of energy and beautiful prose from you - your first time writing for the project too I think?

There is such momentum in your process as you describe it here: I admire that, as someone who has had to take a complete break from writing this last year.

This line in particular is beautiful to me: 'Emotions are woven into words to create a cord to form a chord for a reader.' Gorgeous, touching on several senses at once.

And my admiration to you for joining the writing group for feedback: I never had the courage to do this, and I see now how it slowed down my development as a writer, keeping things too private and not having any safe place to test my ideas and my prose out. (Why I've set up this project, so others will have a starting place for that).

This month's prompt is the only one where I won't be curating responses over on The Cure for Sleep website, as I'm wanting people to feel they can speak freely of deep concerns and tender places when it comes to writing and what it means to them.

But based on this piece by you, how much I hope you will start responding to themes in the archive - I will so enjoy publishing your work and giving you direct links to them so you can use them when sharing word of your writing life or applying for other courses...


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Dear Tanya

Thank you so much for your wonderful message. Yes, it is my very first engagement with your project and I certainly am forming a plan to incorporate archived themes as a part of my writing routine. I am new to writing. I started in lockdown in response to my lovely and "bossy" Aunt who wanted me to write of my experiences living in Pakistan. Once I transcribed my journals, I then set out an action plan to learn the craft of writing. This has evolved and progressed to where I am right now, following you and enjoying applying myself to your themes. Thank you for setting up the project. It's really great to be a part of it.

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Nov 3, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I love this line: " I write because I have no other God to call upon for safety, succour, or salvation." And this one: "When I write, I face my irascible monsters and turn them into pets. I listen to them, stroke them and encircle them with love as they doze by my side." So much beautiful prose here. I envy your courage in joining a writing group -- it's on my list of things I must do! You've given me some great food for thought as I continue on my own writer's journey.

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This is wonderful. I especially loved the first three sentences of the second paragraph. Also, I never would have verbalized writing as a way to compassion for self and others, but that is it exactly. I always appreciate writing that makes me think differently, open up. Also, admire the courage of joining a writing group! xx

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Dear Sheila thank you so much for your encouragement and supportive comments about my writing. You've really boosted my motivation to engage further and challenge myself. Reading your post has made a beautiful start to my day. Thank you x

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My first memory of writing is aged about three, sitting at my granny’s kitchen table. I couldn’t actually write. I was doing what artists pleasingly and importantly call mark making. I knew what I was writing was serious because I was doing joined-up writing. That was how grown-ups wrote. I hid my writing in the airing cupboard, a warm, safe space for putting important things.

Later I wrote real, decipherable notes to my parents and hid them round the house in the hope that they would find them and understand me. I was often told off for talking too much as a child. I wrote down the important things in the hope that I wouldn’t be punished and that they would read what I was not allowed to say. I’m not sure they ever found them.

When that didn’t work, I went through a phase of writing my last will and testament. I wrote it over and over again. I was desperate by this time, so I gave up hiding them and would leave them out in plain view. I remember being so desperate I actually showed one to my mum. She said: ‘Why are you writing a will when you haven’t got anything to leave anyone?’ which very much missed the point. It’s not what I would have said if I had found one my kids incessantly writing their will at the age of 12.

I come from the generation of children brought up in the dying days of Victorian parenting methods. I felt like I was not seen and despite the talking, rarely heard. Writing was a different matter. Both my parents were readers, they valued the written word. I knew that if I could find the right way to make my mark, I stood a chance of being taken seriously. I had serious things to say.

What I took from my failed experience was that the way I wrote must be wrong. When my parents read what I had written, they didn’t engage with me in the way I hoped they would. I assumed that I hadn’t got the right words. It never occurred to me that they couldn’t or wouldn’t see what was in front of them, both in word and deed, and that it was not my fault.

Despite my failures I still believe that writing is my best chance of being seen and heard. The biggest challenge for me is publishing what I write. I am still fighting the desire to hide in the airing cupboard, desperate to be seen but afraid to be found out.

How do I write my truth while maintaining a relationship of trust and integrity with my family? I cannot write in isolation from my loved ones, but I cannot always find my way to writing myself without hurting them.

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PS: I think you will already know the harrowing, beautiful The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch, but have you watched her moving TED talk. It took her many years to move forward with that memoir, despite some very early and overwhelming interest in her as a writer...


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Oct 1, 2023·edited Oct 1, 2023Author

Thank you, Katy, for being first to brave a response to this question - which, three seasons in, felt right to offer you all: writing out of our deepest experiences being at the heart of the whole project as it is.

There is a force to your writing, a pulse, an urgency, that I've always responded to and admired - in your pieces for this project, and what I'm reading in your own Substack: which is beginning to have the feel for me of a fascinating serialised psychogeography book.

And now what you've written here gives me - and others reading it - an understanding of where that power comes from...

...I want to add 'in part' at this point: because your reading is wide and deep and hungry: that too gives authority to your prose - you are writing out of a long and yes, deep apprenticeship. An overlong apprenticeship perhaps, as mine was? You know from my book how long I held back from finding even a local outlet for my words, and why: like you, the need to be understood, to be seen and heard, was so fundamental that the risk of trying and failing - well it threatened obliteration. The loss of a held-out hope that kept me going.

Some lines from your piece that I want to pull out and focus on:

'Despite my failures I still believe that writing is my best chance of being seen and heard.'

I could have written this line myself, and everything in me says yes, yes, in response to reading it in your piece. We can be seen and valued in friendships, work roles, community groups, and in ways that nurture us. But writing - when we find a readership for it **beyond** our existing circles of belonging: this is where we can share more complicated, more nuanced, more urgent aspects of what matters to us.

How do I write my truth while maintaining a relationship of trust and integrity with my family?

I'm fairly sure you've read Melissa Febos' Body Work, where she reflects on this as someone whose first very explicit memoir came out when she was young; she has since revised how she writes the personal as it relates to others in her life.

For me personally, I found some odd and unexpected reactions to my writing based on what forum it was in: My mother was once very hurt by a single line of biography I gave in a Facebook post, back when I used it. In passing, I said to someone that I'd been raised by my farming grandmother. This was true for me emotionally and in many respects practically - all my sick days were spent with her; my weekends; my school holidays. I trusted her. Etc etc. Because my mother used Facebook this felt like a very public betrayal, even though the numbers of potential readers involved were a few hundred.

Once I no longer shared any social media forums with my family and friends, and struck out into separate territory as a writer I carried some of that learning with me. It's often very small offhand details that hurt our people when they read it rather than what we feel to be our biggest shames. This proved true with my book: Nye was very comfortable with me describing one of the greatest challenges in our marriage - actions of mine some Amazon reviewers revile me for! - but asked for single words or small details to be removed.

I also faced a larger challenge with TCFS. The book shows - at great risk to my public and private reputations - my love affair and bad behaviour as a result of that; it also shows the deep past forces that drove me to that, without excusing what I did. However, there were other difficult situations in my marriage not of my making that are NOT in the book - ones that came from my husband's side of the family, and which I was not free to write about. So. My decision was: Was there a true and useful story I could share in which some of what made me behave as I did was NOT in the story at all? I decided there was - even though I was aware that it meant me taking full narrative weight for bad behaviour that had more... what? More mitigating circumstances than I could share.

This is me trying to show some of my own decision-making process: yours will be different, but it DOES require this kind of thinking out. And then there are still the nights pre-publication when one wakes up in a cold sweat with the fear of what might happen!

I know there are other writers who take a much more straightforward approach to this issue of personal truth and the hurt it might cause. I think Annie Lamott is in this camp in Bird by Bird.

But much as I love the bracing permissions in her work and Mary Karr's, I feel the time we spend thinking about how to balance all this deepens our work.

Finally: what you say about the airing cupboard - in the past, and as an internalised space now. I too was an airing cupboard kid - literally. And publishing my memoir truly did feel like coming out. I've even come to be proud of the worst and most personally scathing reader reviews of my work online - people talk ill of us all the time: we usually don't have to hear it OR it's said as part of family/friends banter in a way that makes it hard for us to call it out. The praise of having one's work valued is truly beautiful (what you said about TCFS has carried me through many uncertain times, and always will). But the criticism and discounting and misunderstanding is also powerful: we stood up straight and showed ourselves - there's no shame in that, only courage.


NOTE: I won't curate responses to this month's invitation in full - and will only give a few lines as quotes, and only once each of you let me know by reply that you WOULD be happy for a short extract to be there. Would you prefer to have it here only? If you'd like to be quoted on the book site, perhaps you can choose a few sentences and let me know...

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Thank you. Your words are so encouraging x

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Such an evocative piece, I can imagine being in your shoes as a child. The frustration, the yearning to be seen and heard, the fear about what it might mean to be ignored and punished. And now I find myself in the exact same space as you, how do I write my truth which so needs to be heard, whilst maintaining a relationship with my family? Where the wounds they inflicted are the seeds of my story but still unspoken. Thank you for voicing this.

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You're welcome. I hope you find your way. xx

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Nov 3, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I envy how your piece has a clear narrative arc despite it being only 500 words (I really struggled with this in writing my piece). It reads like a well-thought-out piece, and I could really feel this girl's longing to be seen, heard, appreciated and validated. And the motif of the airing cupboard is lovely -- literal and figurative, and the scene of a coming out. Thanks for this piece of really honest writing.

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Thank you for such a thoughtful comment. x

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Oct 5, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

This is powerful and written with such force of emotion. I could just feel that little girl's pain when writing her will. I hope you find a way to continue writing and sharing and that the serious little girl owns her story and has found joy, too. xx

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Thank you. I will. x

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Oct 5, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

This is such a heartfelt piece and I'm really sorry that you had such a difficult experience when you wrote as a child. I can really understand and identify with much of what you say, especially around the need to write your truth without upsetting others. I don't think there's an easy answer to this, but I hope you can find a way to keep writing how you really feel. The challenge of publishing your writing is also definitely a hard one - but I'm so glad you shared this and hope you can keep putting your writing out there.

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Thank you. It's very much a feeling your way through this process I think. x

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Oct 12, 2023·edited Oct 12, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

For about 10 years, I barely wrote. Lists of shopping and DIY plans and thank-yous don’t count. I kept my hands busy with babies and this new world filled up my head. Very occasionally, a poem leaked out in the small hours as I rocked a sleepless child, but it would float away before I could decant the child into a cot and find pen and paper.

Before children, I’d usually had a notebook on the go, or at least a diary large enough to stick postcards in, jot down thoughts. Younger, as a teenager, I copied out poetry and song lyrics, tried to fit my thoughts to other people’s rhythms.

In the first lockdown, something changed: with a new set of rules, I could add in a couple of my own. I needed to connect with other people, and with the words inside my head. And I haven’t stopped doing this since. Turning on that rusty tap – and beginning a new, just-for-my-words notebook – began a flood.

All those thoughts, captured and brought into the light. I have written about my grandparents, my parents, my lost elder sister. My babies, my past, my future. The places I’ve been, the places in my head. I’ve discovered things about myself, how I see the world. And I’ve also discovered that people enjoy my writing, how I see things and describe them.

So I write, and talk about writing, in case it is catching, in whatever variant. Perhaps someone will start their own notebook, or dust off a neglected talent, get stuff out. My grandma didn’t like the word “stuff”, complaining if I used it in my letters to her. “Why can’t you say what you mean?”

I can’t imagine a life without creativity. It can take you out of yourself, connect you with people on the other side of the world. People older than you, younger, speaking different languages and with different dreams.

If I don’t get the chance to write for a while, when domestic realities take over, I get frustrated – but some of those limits are self-set. I’ve got a rule of not thinking about writing as I fall asleep, as those thoughts inevitably drift away. And I put other obstacles in my own way: I won’t write if I haven’t got my notebook, haven’t got the right pen, if there’s too much distraction around me.

There’s something in me, in the wiring of my brain, that doesn’t know what to do with an opportunity – or more exactly, knows what to do, but doesn’t. And instead sits there, blinking at it, while its light fades. Dealing with this is my biggest challenge. So I make lists of what I need to do. Reply to the email, submit the thing. Which kind of counts.

Why do I write? Because it’s who I am, and what I need to be.

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Nov 3, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I think these lines are so well articulated, and they really resonated with me:

"There’s something in me, in the wiring of my brain, that doesn’t know what to do with an opportunity – or more exactly, knows what to do, but doesn’t. And instead sits there, blinking at it, while its light fades."

So much about your piece resonates with me, even though my life seems very different (e.g. no children, few domestic responsibilities). I think you've written expertly about some universal themes through the lens of your particular experience, and the honesty of it really shines through.

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Nov 3, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Wendy, thank you -- I feel I’m writing towards something at the moment, and this piece was one step on the way -- knowing that it goes beyond the personal is really encouraging xx

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A beautifully-articulated piece... and lines that made me feel an upsurge of joy and purpose, this one especially: 'So I write, and talk about writing, in case it is catching, in whatever variant.' I love that - we all know how easily the cruel and the careless can affect us, but it's harder to remember, and thus so important to remember, that we can catch kindness and caretaking from others too. Thank you for reminding me in what is an especially brutal week in the wider world.

Your penultimate paragraph wonders aloud about how to deal with your pattern of holding back from what you want to do with writing. I like the imagery of wiring, of circuitry, as it opens up the possibility of tracing the short-circuit, changing the way the energy moves.

Do you know the work of Seth Godin? He gives away a lot for free on his famous longrunning blog, but a lot of it is brand and business-focussed now. But his book The Practice also speaks to creative practice as well as commercial pursuits. The stand out concept from that is 'Ship the work' - this might not involve earning money, but it does require us to set delivery dates and standards by which we get what we make out from our private space to even one recipient. It lowers the bar to being a producer/communicator in a way I find very exciting.

I also like how he provides a quite simple sounding but very effective loop for how we cope with bad-intentioned critique or worse. We simply say: 'Here I made this... it's just not for you.'

But those first four words: 'Here, I made this'. Wow. How full of energy they are...

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Oct 20, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Tanya, thank you for your reply, it is definitely a time to look for positive energy.

I don't know Seth Godin's work so will go and look him up -- "ship the work" is a satisfyingly simple phrase to add to the others I've collected. There's something about trying to take the emotion out of the process of publishing/sending -- not in a way that diminishes it, but to remove the emotions that hold oneself back, all the learned, pre-emptive sabotages. It does get easier as a whole, but there are all those mini peaks&troughs along the way.

Thank you as always for your encouragement and cheerleading xx

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My pleasure! xxx

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"There’s something in me, in the wiring of my brain, that doesn’t know what to do with an opportunity – or more exactly, knows what to do, but doesn’t. And instead sits there, blinking at it, while its light fades" This so resonates Amelia, for me I think it's rooted in deep set notions of value and permission, and also fear. I appreciate your generosity in the idea of writing as 'catching'!

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Thank you Clare -- just saying this kind of thing out loud helps and makes it easier to recognise. And try to defeat! I hope that doing it often enough makes the seizing of an opportunity the easier route, establishes a "desire line" towards it.

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A ‘desire line’ - perfect!

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This really resonated with me. And I loved the image of decanting your child into a cot!!

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Before I was ten, I developed a survival strategy for all the images I could not hold up in the mirror. I was only in touch with the devouring aspect of the mother who gobbles up everything. I thought whatever she could not see, she could not devour.

I kept these thoughts, feelings, and sensations hidden in a journal. I wrote constantly, vigilantly. My journal was like a confidential secretary recording the story of my true self. It became a mirror where I could see and feel my truth resonating in my daily experience. The confusion, guilt, and anger I could not express verbally was processed through writing. Writing held my body and soul together. It was the only way for my true self to survive.

Being female meant being a servant like my mother when she was a girl. My mother was born in Northern Ireland. She was one of the youngest of nine children from a poor farmer's family. My mother worked in private homes as a domestic, washing and cleaning for families until she came to live with an aunt in America.

I could only get my mother's approval when I was "useful." She praised me when I was mother's little helper; she would fondly call me her" Right Hand Man." I was valued when I cleaned, ironed, or folded laundry. She made me believe that my only role in life was to be of service. To please her, I rejected aspects of myself, like creativity and femininity. The creative-maternal feminine does not exist in the devouring mother.

Because of the many household chores, I wrote stories, poems, and plays. I could feel pleasure by staying in my head; it was a way of dissociating. She would become furious if she caught me "scribbling," taking away from the efficiency of my chores. She would shred whatever I wrote. Any display of creativity threatened her. So, I learned to keep this pleasurable inner life hidden. Mother's approval came only from my chores and how quickly they were accomplished. The negative mother hates joy, and to do anything that one enjoys produces guilt.

She feared I would create, explore, or enjoy the world's sensual pleasures. If I did get caught in a moment of pleasure, she would scold me and make me feel guilty, call me selfish, useless, and good for nothing to keep me in my place.

One day, when I was ten, my mother sent me on an errand to buy potatoes. I went to the store on my bicycle with a friend. In that moment of guilty pleasure, I fell off the bike and broke my right arm. I remember sitting on the railroad tracks with my friend crying, not because I was in pain. Being right-handed was a gift and a curse. Not writing for a few months seemed unimaginable, so I scrawled with my left hand in defiant rebellion against the right-hand man as a servant to my writing.

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Anne... this is a deeply moving piece of work, but also (this is the editor & writer in me responding) accomplished story-telling. I get the same feeling of place and circumstance and surprising growth-despite-constraints that I value in the work of Marilynne Robinson (Housekeeping, Lila, Gilead) and also in Stoner by John Williams. Do you know this book? I most often recommend it to men I mentor, because it awards deep attention and care to the inner live of an obscure, quiet, good man - rare in this respect I feel. But now I feel that it would speak to you and keep you good company in your creative life if you don't already know it.

Stoner is born into an impoverished farming family during depression: the only child. When a farm agent suggests he should go to agricultural college to study soil health, the parents grace his going though they hardly use words. But then Stoner gets a calling to devote his life to literature. The scene where he breaks it to his parents after graduation that he won't be returning to the farm but working instead in academia... it is understated and absolutely devastating... the blow to them because of the brutality of the work made worse by losing his strength, but more so what it costs him to own that need in himself...:

[I've just run downstairs to fetch it for you]

'Stoner tried to explain to his father what he intended to do, tried to evoke in him his own sense of significance and purpose. He listened to his words fall as if from the mouth of another, and watched his father's face, which received those words as a stone receives the repeated blows of a fist. When he had finished he sat with his head bowed. He listened to the silence of the room.

Finally his father moved in his chair. Stoner looked up. His parents' faces confronted him; he almost cried out to them. '

The remaining few paragraphs of that scene are heartrending and understated and contain a whole time and place as well as the story of those three people. I'll leave you to discover the rest yourself, if it speaks to you. And if you already know and love it, then I want you to know I felt your prose here has a similar strength.

On your need to keep your rich inner life hidden: I'm curious to know how or if that affects you now in terms of sharing your work with others? Does it make it harder to share your words? Or is there a pleasure in feeling your creative self survived and can now come out to play? Or something else entirely? I'd be interested to hear more...

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Oct 4, 2023·edited Oct 4, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you Tanya, no I have not even heard of the book Stoner, but I will certainly order it. I'm very interested. I did not know about Marilynn Robinson either. Will look into both writers.

I'm getting better at sharing my work. I used to be very guarded, but I've given myself more permission in past few years. Sometimes when it feels too personal, I hesitate. Yes, there is certainly a pleasure in feeling my creative self survived and is still thriving! Yes, just the other day I realized it is about being able to come out and play, it doesn't need any other purpose than that! Thank you for your encouragement.💖

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Come out and play! Love this... and yes, yes to that. As a child who had to become more serious at a young age that was my natural temperament, I share this wish to find ways to play now at midlife! xx

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Nov 3, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I really like how you've cleverly woven together the references to the 'right hand' here. First the idea of being the reluctant 'right-hand man' servant to your mother, and then, while having fun and just being a kid, you break your right arm, and rebel by learning to write with your left. It felt like the girl was shaking her left fist at having to be a servant, and saying 'no! I'm not who you think I am!' Very nicely done and a good way to make this piece feel like it has a clear thread running through it.

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Wow, Wendy Thank you for your wonderful feedback. You totally validated what I was trying to express!

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Nov 29, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

He said it was our secret. He told me no-one would believe me. I was four years old, and I was silenced. I was a bridesmaid at his wedding. There’s a photograph taken outside the church, his hand resting on my shoulder like a clamp. I look terrified. After the wedding, he moved abroad with his wife, my auntie. The trauma didn’t go away, but I knew what I had to do. I have no recollection of this, but my mum told me recently that I begged her to teach me to read before I started school. I knew. I knew where I wanted to go to be safe. I wanted stories. I wanted words on the page, words that would take me somewhere else.

I read everything I could lay my hands on. I read under the covers at night. I read in the far corners of the playing field attached to our small village school. I copied my dad, an avid reader, who, if nothing else was available, would read the label of the HP sauce bottle on the table.

And I wrote my own stories. A very lovely teacher, Mr McNichol, read one out in class once. I was fifteen. He said it was the best story he’d read in a long time. I was mortified. All I felt was shame. I was supposed to be silent, and here were my words, being read out in public. My teachers wanted me to try for Oxford, to take the exam. I thought they were mad.

At university, not Oxford, the first in our family to go, I read and I read. I remember one December afternoon, sitting in a chair by the window of my bed sit, reading Mrs Dalloway. Devouring that book, the words of a magician, I thought. I was eating a packet of Viennese whirls. It got darker and darker, but I couldn’t get up to turn on the light. I was spellbound. How could she write such sentences, create scenes that felt so real. It was as if she was there in the room with me.

I have always kept a diary. For a long time, that was all I could do.

I was writing to bear witness. That question. Why do you write. Sometimes I just want to laugh out loud. I write because I have to. Because it’s like breathing. But most of all, thinking back to that four year old girl, I write because I want to be believed. I write to tell the truth. And because words saved me. The books that mean the most to me now are stories by women: Maggie Nelson, Virginia Woolf, Annie Ernaux, Emilie Pine, Kerri ni Dochartaigh, Amy Liptrot, and yes, you dear Tanya. Fiction or non-fiction, it doesn’t matter. I want the truth, and specifically, I want women’s truth.

Writing grounds me, settles me. I write to escape chaos, to process my trauma. Sometimes magic happens. Sometimes I despair.

At the end of the day it’s simple: I write because I want to tell my story.

My words, my life, my truth.


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Dear and wonderful Kerry... I've just now read your words, just over a week since we were able to meet in your library that is a haven for so many (and you a large part of making it so). One of my other Ilkley mentees came on the Arvon course, and said how the Hebden library was where she was helped to set up her life in the UK many years ago, arriving alone and vulnerable from overseas.... I love these rippling circles of connection and caring, and you in so many of them (both Amy Liptrot and Bec Evans saw my post about our meeting, and both were thrilled to learn of our connection, saying online how talented you are).

What you've written here: that early and devastating violation you should never have had to experience... such anger I feel to think of that being done to you... equivalent only to the awe I feel for the child-you who found her own process and path to a kind of safety. One which has connected you to me and many others.

I'm working hard these last few weeks of the year to design an affordable year-long Masterclass that would run as a separate Substack. It would be one fee for all and no free places, as I'm keeping this project free for the long term and the new offering will be intensive, meaning I can't take on much other paid work beyond it. But I'm hoping it will be something that might interest you and be within reach financially: a place where you can connect more intensively than here with others who are taking their practice to the next levels with regards to aiming towards publication. More on that before end of year via a message to everyone here on the free Substack...

Are you also aware that Arvon Lumb Bank are going through a major redesign this coming year - architecturally but also in terms of broadening their accessibility to their regional and working-class writers. As a librarian at Hebden, and a local writer who embodies so much of that vision/plan, have you considered getting in touch with them to ask if there's a way you can come on board as a tutor/host? I'd be very happy to be a referee/to support your approach. If you decide to give that a try, let me know and I'd be happy to talk with you in the new year about how you might pitch that...


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Tanya thank you as ever for your invaluable feedback. Am still pinching myself that we met. One of the best things that has happened for a very long time…and things are changing in a way I was beginning to despair would ever happen. My ex-partner is moving out tomorrow. I can’t believe I am writing that…but it is real. Next year is going to be special. And yes please! The masterclass sounds wonderful and I am most definitely interested…

And thank you for mentioning the Arvon stuff..but to be honest I don’t think I would have the energy for that..I just want to write and focus on that, and processing whatever comes up after these awful two years.

I met you! We had hugs! I have to write it to believe it but what an amazing day it was.

And yes, thank you, I did read what Amy had written in reply to your Instagram post..in fact, I sat next to her on the bus the other day and was able to thank her for her kind comments…

Wow. 2024. Bring it on…

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Just a quick note Kerry to say I will read this and respond when I'm home from Arvon next week. Still buzzing from our meeting. Made my week! xxx

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Nov 29, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Made my week too Tanya…buzzing is the word for it!

Am glad the sun has come out for you ..xxx

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This is so powerful and empowering. You did so much in such a short piece, it was so visual. This line: his hand resting on my shoulder like a clamp and the detailing with the packet of Viennese whirls. I don't have a literary background and always struggle to put to words what works in writing, but I know how my body responds when I read something that rings so true. I'm glad you shared this.

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Oct 22, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Right, let’s write. Together. The pen curls letters on the page as the mind toils. ‘Write,’ they say. Over and over, ‘write’.

Write what?

About you, my dear. Your story. Your language. Your narrative. Write it all.

I feel a fool though. Who am I to write? Who would read it? It seems a waste.

I look at the red thread coiled around my left wrist. A lump gathers at my throat. Commitment. I made a commitment to myself. And so, to honour myself, and my grandmothers who walked this earthly path before me, I write.

I got here in tatters. I was like a Tibetan prayer flag, ripped and frayed, stuttering not fluttering in the wind. Gusts tore at me. Once I was bold colour and clear, legible words, speaking out loud…but I faded. Jaded. 37 and colourless, wordless.

I betrayed myself.

Invisible fingers grip at my throat. My jaw tightens and locks. My voice box hollows. Salty water pools in my more-grey-now-than-green eyes. I swallow. Pushing it down, away. As I have every time before. I take conscious breaths… in….and gently out…. So that no one can see what’s inside. Breathe it out. But I’m not, am I? I’m breathing it down. I’m pushing it down again. Just as the food used to do. The chronic overeating to hide and disguise. Fat children, fat teens, fat women aren’t angry, are they? They’re soft and squidgy. Not a simmering flow of volcanic anger. No.

This isn’t easy.

It isn’t meant to be, my dear.

Hit. Kick. Punch. Tear. Shout. Release the wrath; the wild, uncontrollable rage of your womanhood that has sat in your sacral since you first bled. It’s time, my dear, to be confronted by your own wildness. Create space for it. Let her take shape, form. Let her borrow your vowels, consonants, vocabulary, syntax, rhetoric, metaphor. Let her take possession of your voice box spitting out pre-linguistic utterances, primitive sounds, basic needs. Let her snarl and hiss. Create space for the guttural howl to come. The thick, jarring rasp as she yanks and pulls her way out of the cave you shoved her into. Be decent enough to allow her, to accept her.

No more tiptoeing around. No more papering over the cracks. No more whitewashing. No more bullshit metaphors. Let her growl. Let her sob. Let her rage as she sets fire to your voice box. Let her kick her legs and punch her fists as she crawls out of the darkness. Let her howl not into the moonshine, but into the clear light of day. Let her be seen. See her. See her.

Not the fat kid anymore. Not the hormonal 20 something. Not the giving charity worker. Not the healer. Not the friend. Not the daughter. Not the sister.

The hag.

The wise woman.

The artist.

The storyteller.

The creator.

The one who hisses, clicks, whistles as she births herself out of madness and into the light. The one with symbols tattooed on her night skin, with dreads, with flames in her amber eyes, mirth in her dancing bare feet.

The one who is technically accurate and makes pin-point observations about the workings of the body, of the mind. The one who knows. The one who has books stored inside: knowledge and power and wisdom.

The one with words- like riverstones- handed across the realms. Tangible words to be rolled between finger and thumb. Words that come easily, playful, like the stones you threw in hopscotch when you were 7.

Stop pushing her down.

Stop pushing her away.

She’s here now. She’s here. Right now.

And she’s here to stay.

See her. Hear her. Be her.

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Fran this is such a powerful statement of past/process/intention... this passage in particular I felt in my own body as I read you:

'I got here in tatters. I was like a Tibetan prayer flag, ripped and frayed, stuttering not fluttering in the wind. Gusts tore at me. Once I was bold colour and clear, legible words, speaking out loud…but I faded. Jaded. 37 and colourless, wordless. I betrayed myself. Invisible fingers grip at my throat. My jaw tightens and locks. My voice box hollows.'

My mother after a life-time of betrayal and abuse couldn't sing a single note: she felt she had a wire in her throat. Even the happiness of her last few years didn't cure it. And I too have always felt my worst hurts in my throat. You speak of your own experience here, I'm trying to say, but it speak for/to others too.

I get the same strong feeling I get from Plath's diaries, where she is fighting for her life against all the polite and yet also violent forces of conformity that she was compelled to want to live within and excel at... while at the same time knowing they were preventing her inhabiting and writing from her deep and truest self: the one that was angry, 'not nice' as she called it.

And in sharing this piece you're showing me that I've created here the space that I hoped to: one that has room for our tenderest memories but also our fiercest and more contested/conflicted ones. Thank you.

I'm not curating responses to this month's themes over on the cure for sleep site as I normally do as I want to use my time to link to useful resources or to give my thoughts to those whose responses indicated they'd like advice. But you know - having already contributed a piece to the permanent collection - that I will love to curate any other pieces you share with us.

And now I'm going to read your piece again!

Tanya xx

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Oct 5, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I write to celebrate the startle of orange chicken of the woods mushrooms, the walk home through the tree shaded paths with my T-shirt made into a basket, the sauteing with garlic, the cream, salt and pepper, fresh rosemary and shredded Parmesan on steaming pasta. To remember the feeling of picking my son up at the airport after a year away, late afternoon kayaking and the loud smack of a beaver tail. To remember the thin film of flour on the counter, my aproned daughter sparkling with sugar, always happiest when baking.

I write because life cycles by and cycles through and it's so easy to forget the golden parts and writing is the only way through the dark parts.

Because writing can hold what cannot be said. Writing doesn’t tell me I’m crazy, doesn’t say, “I will,” and then doesn’t. Writing doesn’t walk away.

Because I live timidly in small circles that long to ripple out across a pond filled with the haunting wail of loons.

Because I want more.

I write because thoughts move in and circle like vultures. I write because words trail along with me on walks, drop heavy like October hickory nuts and are sometimes hidden in the tapestry of fallen leaves, words brown and yellow, and sometimes bold scattered reds. I write because words are irrepressible and hang about like a cross squirrel with flagging tail if not released onto the page. And because by this time of my life I’ve repeated my stories too many times, and they’ve become just that: a story I tell, lacking emotional truth, told to make sure others don’t feel uncomfortable.

I write because I love the edits, the changes, watching words become more when gathered and rearranged. I write because metaphor allows the truth to be told without shaming people who loved me the best that they could. Writing pushes me out of my comfort zone even though the words sometimes collapse in on themselves. Nothing is ever wasted.

I write because women before me were silenced and because other women dare to share and their courage inspires.

I write because it is mine.

And yet, I am challenged by being born responsible for others, a heart laid claim to before its first beat, the enduring pull to protect, do the right thing, prove worth. I am challenged by to-do lists, work, chickens to feed, laundry, dirty floors and an insistent dog. I buy the groceries and cook the food. I clean the toilet and write the bills. Even when the list is done, there's the challenge of believing, the persistent doubt that tells me it’s all been written, I could spend this time learning something useful. Sometimes I fear the truth that will be uncovered. I hold back, not wanting to hurt anyone more than I have, knowing I can’t tell everyone’s truth and the truth changes.

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Sheila, tears reading this - the sort that have nothing to do with happy or sad or worried, but are to do with being party to someone showing their gift for a thing. You are a true writer. I've known it since your first piece came through, but this makes me feel urgent about your work. Please, please - whatever your other writing project plans - please, Sheila, will you write a book about food? About cooking? There's a way it's not written about enough, and you can do it. I have a hungry feeling just saying it. If you write it, I would be first in line as a first reader and supporter (should you need me for that).

'the startle of orange chicken of the woods mushrooms'... 'Because I live timidly in small circles that long to ripple out across a pond filled with the haunting wail of loons.' ... 'metaphor allows the truth to be told without shaming people who loved me the best that they could' - this is such exciting writing.

While I don't often read novels, and not the bestseller sort, I gave a whole day in the gardens at the bottom of town last year very happily to Where The Crawdads Sing. Some clunky plot devices aside, it worked a spell of time and place on me. I was there: a landscape and culture I've never known. You can do this too: perhaps writing about food, prepared in response to the comings and goings of tasks, a dog, loved ones, is another way you can work with short scenes or stories as you said you want to, while still creating a long form work?


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Oct 8, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Tanya, Once again, blown away by your comments. It's difficult to explain how it feels to have grown up feeling like I had no creativity at all, to finding out that I like to write, and then to having someone with your skill offer me up so much encouragement. My heart swells with gratitude to you. I had been thinking of ways to structure a project since my writing (even the stuff that I do that isn't part of your project) just seems like random responses to daily life and past memories that float up. I was thinking of using the Pre-nest, Nest, and Post-nest pieces I shared here as section markers to sort of make sense of what I was writing. I think food writing would definitely fit into that, but I'm also intrigued with just writing about food too. So much to write about there.....Jeff (my husband) was diagnosed with cancer when he was 31, Emily was nearly 2, and Jesse was due in about three months. Jeff is still alive and well, but was when I got serious about food and health, cooking as love. I'm so excited by the opportunities that you offered up here as different approaches to writing. I would love to have you be a first reader and laughed when you offered supporter should I need one. I feel quite certain of needing support. I really look forward to you potentially offering a class in the new year. Until then, I'll keep writing and see what I end up with. Looking forward to having you in the kitchen sometime in 2024! Thank you so much! xxx

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...glad I said what I was thinking/intuiting about the importance of food, your kitchen. Moved to learn now when that began to be so, and why. And when (not if) I arrived at your backdoor... what a special feeling that will be, to be in this place that lives so brightly in my imagination now. xxx

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Oct 5, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Why do I write?

I write to understand myself. A cliche.

I write to understand my life. Also a cliche.

I write for my children. To show them that they can know themselves and their own hearts.

I write to understand the world and my tiny place in it. To find something. Anything. To fill the vastness.

I write to find peace and silence. To soothe.

I write to explore my feelings and emotions, to listen to my heart beat.

I write to quiet the noise, the storms that often stop me in my tracks

I write to shut my noisy thoughts, to calm the chaotic chatter. Get it all out.

I write to define love and find meaning in my existence.

I write to clear the clutter, to carve a path through the messiness that often fills my mind.

I write to write myself out, to heal my heart and pain.

I write to remember, loves lost, people gone forever, to celebrate life and joy.

I write to honour my life and those that have walked it with me.

I write to to be curious, long lists of dreams and plans, hopes and fears. To consider what comes next.

I write to feel the pen in my hand and see the ink on the page, a physical act.

I write for comfort. To speak my absolute truth. A safe space. A haven.

I write to speak the unsaid. The things that I can only say to myself. The hidden parts of my soul.

I write to problem solve, to ask questions of my life and look for answers, patterns.

I write to create, to explore words and sentences. To fulfil a part of me that yearns to make something.

I write to find hope, to revisit the darkest times and find light in their passing.

I write to find energy. The energy to move through this life.

I write because it pushes me to the limits of myself, it challenges me to press against the outer boundary of safety and comfort. Like dipping myself in the grey icy winter sea, I seek in mid life to push back the edges of me. Of what I am capable of.

I write to re-define who I am. To change. To become better. To become myself.

I don’t write because I need to be anywhere or travel with it. This act is enough.

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Helen... fascinating: I first read submissions as they come through to me as emails: they don't have the same formatting there that they do over here on Substack, so I later click through and look at them again as part of responding with my reader feedback.

This piece by you had such an incredible force driving through it, an incantatory quality, so that I began to read it out loud to better feel and enjoy that aspect of it. I had a huge smile then to see it here, with the formatting you intended, because instead of one large paragraph that I first read, I see that you intended it to have that poetic form and declarative aspect.

What I love is that even with the formatting not there initially, I could still tell - from the quality of your prose - what you intended. That's a rare thing.

I felt the kind of energy that runs through Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison. And I'm curious to know which writers you feel most in the company of? It might be very different ones to these of course...


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Oct 8, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Ah thanks Tanya as always for your lovely and generous feedback. I don’t really know who my favourite writers are these days to be honest- I am drawn a lot to short form writers though. That might be due to time more than anything though at the moment. I didn’t write anything but my journals for years until I discovered your project and it’s been such a positive experience so again, thankyou for your generosity creating it xxx

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Oct 8, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I love this! The way you have set it out as a chant is brilliant but also how much you are able to say in a limited space. Your line “I write to speak the unsaid” really resonates with me, as well as “writing pushes me to the limits of myself”, with its vivid analogy of dipping yourself in the icy sea.

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Feb 24Liked by Tanya Shadrick

A wonderful manifesto to all the reasons to write. My favorite l was "I write to write myself out," because I felt there are so many ways to interpret this line, sometimes writing myself out as a discovery and other times just writing myself out as a wringing myself out of all of the self perpetuating, weary thoughts. I'll be carrying this line with me today. Also thought the last line was perfect. It is enough just to write...

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Why do I write? I write because I must.

I write because my thoughts become muddled as they form into speech. I open my mouth, sounds come out, but they don’t reflect the meaning in my head. The disconnect between my brain and my words has been with me always. My neurones, with their out-of-kilter connections, have never been studied or diagnosed or labelled. As a child, I was simply odd, a loner with an empty chair by my side. I knew I was different to the others. I stood on the fringes, observing the children who knew what to say.

Long childhood hours were spent creating projects, keeping creepy crawlies and writing, writing, writing. When written words spilled out, like magic they were in the right order, struck the right note, and they danced unselfconsciously in the sunshine without any awkwardness at all.

Fifty years on, spoken words still falter from my mouth in that familiar jumbly, erratic fashion and a spotlight shines on me as I know all the time people are looking at me, wondering who is this strange woman and her blurted-out words.

But give me a pen and the tap is turned on. Words flow out onto the paper and nowadays the keyboard, like molten lava, and I know they represent exactly what my fizzing brain is saying. The words aren’t fully formed or polished or even making sense, but they are the ingredients from which something will eventually emerge, sometimes slowly and painfully like a butterfly unfolding its damp brand-new wings, at other times popping out into the world like a baby seal, slick and perfectly formed.

When I write I can feel the mask, the one I wear to fit in, falling away until it’s barely there. I don’t need to concentrate on how to compose my face, to make sure I look you in the eye, or whether my comments are acceptable or ill-judged. I don’t have to pretend I am someone else.

When I don’t write, I’m bottled up like a blocked pipe. Stifled, as if I’m wearing a surgical mask, all communication muffled.

So why, sometimes, do I stop writing? I feel like it’s a kind of punishment. I know writing mends me, but there are times I don’t want to be healed. I must write, but an invisible wall lies between my thoughts and my hands. My words are sucked away in a vortex of gloom.

I have strategies now, writery friends and Tanya’s thoughtful prompts, to gently ease me away from such stupor. And now, even, I have shared my words. The inner workings of my mind have been read by others. At first that idea was as impossible as jumping from a cliff, but slowly the temptation to share grew like a seedling inside me, stronger and stronger as it reached towards the light. I danced around the idea, a moth drawn to a flame. Tempted but terrified.

Yet, here I am.

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Here you are. Yes! And how glad I am to have made a space where you feel safe and welcome. So much of what you so vividly describe from your childhood experience is true for me too - and part of why I have tried in each of my projects this last seven years to make a shared space alongside each of my solo endeavours. The child who didn't belong to any groups wanting to found them on the sort of terms that make others like me able to draw close. It means a lot to read your piece. Thank you.

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Thank you so much for your insightful comments. And thank you for creating this wonderful supportive community ♥️

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So much to relate to here, wonderful metaphors. Tempted but terrified...that's it exactly no matter how much I write!

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Nov 13, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

In the middle of our seventh-floor apartment was a small, windowless room, a space where we were safe from typhoon winds strong enough to smash the windows in the flat. When a force eight storm warning looked likely, the one we children hoped for because then school was cancelled, my parents would attach a metal cross bar, which had suction pads on each corner, to the biggest window to reinforce it. There was a story, perhaps apocryphal, that a man had died there, shredded by glass as the enormous pane blew in.

That dark room was perfect as a mini photography studio. I stuck up black card and pinched lights from my brother’s desk, plundering my mother’s spice cupboard for my first composition. It was a world of rich pigments and textures and I tipped them into coloured heaps, moving the lamps to light them just so. One of those, the nutmeg, was a bit part player, tucked to one side because it was nothing special; greyish-brown and slightly wrinkled, neither big nor small. It didn’t have the long, glistening lines of the vanilla pod or the intricate folds of the cinnamon stick, nor the deep, hot-country hues of ground paprika and turmeric.

Years later as a student, and having failed my first-year exams, I made a six-pint rice pudding to feed myself as I revised for resits. I grated a nutmeg onto the top and was astonished by its internal beauty; dark brown, irregular lines weaving through a light brown canvas, like neural pathways on a brain scan. And, as I took it between my fingers and lifted it to my nose, an inhale revealed another dimension, a warm-spice world of countries, perspectives and languages. I was holding an idea between my fingers, turning it over and over, exploring its possibilities.

This is why I write. Because the smallest thing can blow open your world. Working in slow time, you can watch ideas and beliefs spin out and away from you, their edges stretching for meaning. You begin to see complexity; something that was just blue yesterday, reveals itself to be subtle shades today: midnight, Denim and French navy. And words offer you connections, not just with concepts but with people. Because as you roll through life’s daily interactions, with the experiences that mark you in ways that can be difficult to voice, you begin to understand yourself and the people around you. You can be better and do better, more confident about what matters.

But, it can be difficult to create the solitude to think, let alone write. I am raising children, keeping a marriage and extended family together, throwing my all into the daily demands of everyone else. Orchestrating spinning lives consumes almost all of me: laundry, meals, cleaning, homework; I am counsellor and confidante. But, I am also resisting, quietly redrawing boundaries and expectations, clinging on to a crack in wall. Inch by inch I am advancing towards that other dimension, the one with limitless edges.

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So very moving to read this truly beautiful piece by you (full of both soul and craft) on my son's 17th birthday - that birth which set in motion the haemmorhage that almost took me away from him ten days later. And which also brought into urgency my need to find a way to reach beyond home and family and work. It took me so long, as you know, to find a way to share my words, but your words reaching me today is the most beautiful proof that I made it into that clearing where those of us who love words, stories, attention head for, hope for. Your words connect with me, yes. And I love that you are making your way to me and other readers 'inch by inch' as I did.

And what rich details you've given us: the six-pint rice pudding, the windowless middle room... and this passage in particular is gorgeous:

"This is why I write. Because the smallest thing can blow open your world. Working in slow time, you can watch ideas and beliefs spin out and away from you, their edges stretching for meaning. You begin to see complexity; something that was just blue yesterday, reveals itself to be subtle shades today."

This is the only theme in the collection where I'm not curating responses over in the permament archive - only so I can give time to those who respond with questions or feelings about writing which invite suggestions/recommendations from me. But I hope you will continue to write for other themes in the archive, as you have before - I will always enjoy seeing more of your work...

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Nov 28, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you Tanya, for your support for all of us who share our words and thoughts here. And thank you too for the time you spend reading and commenting. Encouragement is uplifting - writing can be an uncertain process.

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It's my absolute pleasure. I was very clear from my own first small published piece in 2015 that each time I undertook a project, I'd find ways to extend opportunities to others in turn. So each time you and others join me here, it's a special feeling! xx

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‘Inch by inch I am advancing towards that other dimension, the one with limitless edges.’ What a beautiful last line!

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Thank you Nicola x

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Writing has been a gift and a lesson in the act and art of noticing.

Every time I write, it’s an opportunity to observe the transience and yet enduring persistence of the everyday. It’s all at once the comforting clasp of a tiny hand and the dull ache of longing and grief. Through writing, I can hold the weight of joy and despair in both hands and feel their outline. Above all it’s a reminder to grasp hold of the novelty and awe that we so often lose as adults.

My writing journey began with learning how to read. As a child, I was often found hiding in a corner, head down immersed in a book. Reading was all at once an escape, a place of solace and a welcome distraction. It became a magical way to dive deep into fantastical otherworldly places and to make sense of the world around me. As my messy handwriting evolved alongside my reading, secret scribbles and scraps of poems appeared on the page in determined scratchy, spidery marks.

Eight-year-old me dreamt of writing and I would copy out my favourite books. Yet in my teens writing became something secretive and furtive, adolescent self-consciousness and a desire to break away from family ties, led me to throw many notebooks away in rebellion. Years passed and I swallowed down my desire to write, pushing it aside in pursuit of independence and a career. But the words were always there, jangling in my pockets like loose change.

It was not until the arrival of my first-born that I returned to writing. Becoming a parent opened the floodgates to the words that had long remained dormant. My notes app became filled with 3AM thoughts, threads of poems and lines of prose that would not settle until I had captured them. Yet writing whilst mothering presented a whole new world of challenges; from the perpetual interruption to the bone-aching sleep deprivation, from the loss of identity to the pervasive and intrusive feelings of guilt and imposter syndrome to name a few. During the first few years, I found it hard to let go and lean into the interruption, frustration would seep into my writing and I grieved the lack of space and time to create. Yet for any writer, time presents itself as a slippery creature and over the years, I’ve come to value time’s elasticity and luminosity. From the snatched early moments when I rise before the rest of the house and write for fifteen minutes to the pockets of time that appear as I fall asleep, no matter how long I leave it, I can always return to the page.

As I enter a new season of my mothering journey, I’ve come to view my writing with compassion and to value its unerring companionship. The perpetual interruptions of life will always be there, so I try to welcome them in and invite them to kindle my curiosity and fuel my desire to write.

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Thank you for joining us here, Lucy, and with this beautiful first contribution (and if you respond to any of the others in the archive, I will be glad to curate them over on the cure for sleep website: it's only with this one that I'm not doing that, as I wanted to spend more time giving more detailed feedback than usual, for those who've identified blocks or struggles).

I love the lifelong sense of you as a reader and writer you share with us here, and was moved in particular by the beauty and wisdom of this line towards the end: 'As I enter a new season of my mothering journey, I’ve come to view my writing with compassion and to value its unerring companionship.' Our writing as a steadfast presence even as our other relationships ebb and flow. How wonderful.

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Thank you so much Tanya for the welcome and your lovely words and for taking the time to read my words... It always feels so terrifying sharing and I often find myself running to the hills and hiding away with a big vulnerability hangover whenever I’ve shared something. This space and community is truly magical and I can’t wait to join in properly and respond to the rest of the prompts. Thanks again and sending you best wishes from a very wild and windy Cornwall x

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I will so enjoy receiving more from you whenever you have time and interest. I'm glad I decided early on to keep all themes open - it means those of you arriving here in Year 3 can soon feel to have been as fully part of the project as folk who wrote for the first prompts back in 2021. I also think writing deadlines - necessary though they are for Prizes - stop a lot of talent finding an audience because the deadlines rarely fit with our full-time work, or caring responsibilities...

Wild and windy Cornwall... oh, heart tug. Though I love Sussex and am fully settled here now 30 years, til August I always had Mum back there. So the long drive there and back had to be done and done often. Now... I think it will be a while til I'm there again. But I do miss 'the real sea' as I think of it... xx

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Oct 12, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

This resonates with me so much! Thank you for the wisdom of your final lines and their kindness.

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Oh wow, thank you so very much Amelia, that’s so kind. Just off to read your words xxx

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Nov 3, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

"... the words were always there, jangling in my pockets like loose change." I love this line. It's evocative, and so familiar -- the way a person can come back to writing, over and over, no matter how long you've left it behind. I feel that, too. I also like hearing about your challenges. As I said to another writer here, I don't have children, and yet I share the frustration of not giving time to my writing. There's something about this that feels universal for women, a theme of carving out time for what gives our life meaning. Your advice at the end is so good: there will always be interruptions, "so I try to welcome them in". Thanks for this piece.

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Oct 1, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I put pen in my hand and suddenly I'm a river where before I was a couch. The words come forth and flow. Confessions, songs, journeys, poems. Elemental talk, dreams, character arc, Gaia's whispers. Divination, inner stories, outward observations, news of the world. Confessions and Prayers. For this I must write. Mystical visions and spirit callings. For this I must write. Poetic visions and gateways with words. For this I must write. Stream of consciousness and voices of the wild. For this I must write. To live and to let die. For this I must write. To create and to conjure. For this I must write.

I put pen in my hand and suddenly I'm a waterfall where before I was a dam. The words come forth and insist to be known, to be recognized. The page is a record playing the song I hear in me and in you. The typeset is a sculpture, a work of written art that took form and gave me flight. This is why I write.

I am in the midst of writing my first book titled Living Within the Beauty of the Earth. It is a work of nonfiction composed along with Nature. I discovered my poetic self in 7th grade English and I have written ever since. Writing is the river that confesses and reworks my emotional life. Writing is a way to express my soul path and mission to be a co creator with Gaia Earth. I was a paraeducator for 22 years and made the conscious choice at age 51 to resign. While navigating the uncertainty of my life after leaving the safety of a mainstream job and its revenue stream, a strong voice inside kept showing up to say your work in the world now should be tied to writing. I can be in service to Nature in this medium of writing. It is a soul calling and I am listening and following through with courage and joy. I am a writer and I feel like that has always been with me at the core. It is who I am and it is a liberating thing to declare it as my main work and purpose in the world.

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Nov 3, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I really like the image you create of putting the pen in your hand and boom! a river, or boom! a waterfall. That's so powerful. I also really relate to turning 50+, leaving your career and knowing writing must be part of the rest of your life. That's true for me, too. Your book sounds fascinating and I look forward to reading more of your contributions.

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Thank you for your kind words, Wendy! It feels so supportive to know you are having a similar experience with a career change leading to a mighty call for writing to be in the driver's seat of your life! I look forward to reading your work here as well!

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Suzanne! Welcome to our community here - and what a joyous first contribution.

This month's prompt is different in that I'm not curating pieces over on the cure for sleep website, from wanting to give people a chance to speak to a more closed group of their struggles in writing or sharing work once they have. But if you write for any of the other themes in the project it will be my pleasure to curate them into the story archive.

Your prose has the force and energy and movement of the natural sources that your celebrate. I will love seeing more work from you here, and how your style and sensibility responds to them.


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Oct 4, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you, Tanya! Your work here is a gift to writers everywhere. It is truly an amazing offering you give to let writers share on your platform. I discovered you through Sharon Blackie's recommendation on her substack. I'm looking forward to reading your book!

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Ah! Big smile reading this. Grateful. Thank you! xx

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Oct 23, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Why do I write? It’s hard to answer that question when, at the moment, I don’t. My writing has always been sporadic; as a child and a teenager I would handwrite stories in notebooks and on cheap printer paper, my handwriting scrawling diagonally down the page as I tried and failed to write in a straight line. I would tell myself I was writing a novel, that this time I would really write it, but each attempt would end up discarded after the first few chapters, mired in a a mess of plot contradictions and artificial characters.

In my 20s I became a journalist and for a while writing was part of my day job. I loved composing features, interviewing people and forming a narrative, each piece in it’s own way a story. But as I worked my way up the career ladder I found I was doing less and less writing of my own, until now at 31 I manage the writing of other people yet can’t remember the last time I wrote anything of my own.

I want to carve enough time in my life to write, but it feels in many ways like a selfish thing to want. Writing, for me at least, requires some time alone and deep concentration. Since I became a mother in 2021, both of these things have been in short supply. Should I even want time alone, away from my daughter, when I’m already necessitated by my paid work to spend more time apart from her than I want? Or is it important, a sort of feminist act, to show her that women are allowed to want pursuits of our own, to be selfish in pursuing creative desires? I don’t know: that’s why I’m writing this.

I read about a famous novelist, a mother of three, who writes on a notebook balanced on the pram she is pushing around a park. I feel a sense of shame that I do not find time to write: surely it is just a case of self-discipline. I could get up earlier, I could write in the evening, I could, I should, should I? I look at my daughter, perfect in her chubby toddlerishness, and think: you are perfect, why do I need anything more than my love for you, which has transformed me. But even my transformed self still wants to be myself, as well as a mother.

I have no answers, but on this Monday evening at 5:08pm, in the smallest of windows between work and picking my daughter up from nursery, I have managed to write. I have not dusted my bedroom table. I have not stacked the dishwasher. I have not sent the birthday parcel for my best friend which is already a month late. I have written. At least it’s a start.

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I'm back, as promised!

If you've read my book you'll know already how I shared your dilemma: wanting to be fully present for my children when they were small, while fearing that if I didn't begin somehow to write at last then it would be 'too late'.

I have a quite different perspective now of course, because I've found a way to share my words beyond my private diaries. And this didn't begin for me until my children were at primary school.

What I did do in their baby years, which I think kept the desire and the intention alive in me in a small but very useful, very durable way - like a spark kept in straw in a horn ready to catch light at a later time - was to make short and occasional factual notes on my life with the children. What they said, what they were fascinated by, what they ate. Years later this practice of observing the everyday closely became a core part of what in my published writing people respond to and value. Voice notes, now phones are better than in my young mothering years, would serve the same function but without needing the paper even. Record you and your daughter - sound only. Make transcripts from those seasons from now. What rich material you will have - at now cost to the here-and-nowness of you and she together. And yet how creative a practice it is, how it will deepen your already rich and full days.

Do you know the novel Woman Running in the Mountains by the late Japanese writer Yūko Tsushima? It is about a single mother in 1970s (I think) Japan. The whole book is extraordinary and one aspect especially - one which her publishers resisted fiercely but had to give in on, given her fame. The story includes notes from the baby's nursery workers on what he ate, when he slept, how he responded to them and other children. The mother is also asked to make them before her son begins there. To me they are stunning, and speak to the truth of those early years when we are always monitoring and adjusting these things around which the rest of our life has to fit. I love that the author insisted this too is literature, no different than how so many male authors haven given details of war, of mountaineering, of other traditionally male pursuits.

The sculptor Anne Truitt's journals are also worth a look if you don't already know them. Begun in her later years, she reflects on how during her young mothering years her only art practice was to walk out to her studio to clean her unused brushes - and yet that was enough to keep alive in her the artist she would grow into as the children got older.

Yes, there are always going to be writers who manage to write while they have young children, but we can't know their wider circumstances - who they have on hand to help, what needs their children have compared to ours, what money is available. I admire and learn what I can from those that create in the most adverse of circumstances...while assuming that most productive people usually have some support systems helping that happen.

What I do think is important is to keep alive in us that discomfort which tells us there is something we want to express... somehow, oneday. To not argue or numb or distract ourselves out of that. Rilke writes about this in his Letters to a Young Poet: to live the question while at the same time acting as if one has all the time in the world in which to ripen. This was the approach I took in the end and it worked for me. I lived my everyday life as if I was, of course, a writer, an artist: I read as they did, I thought as they did, I listened and paid attention as they did: I only didn't have the opportunity yet to make material my ideas, my stories.

...but when that time began to come to me, then I was ready.

And this project is one of the ways I've found to offer (in your words) 'the smallest of windows' where others can start to share their work, even when they've got very little time or experience.

Which is why you using it as you have has made me so happy and hopeful. I feel sure I will be reading more from you in seasons to come - here and elsewhere.

Tanya xxx

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Oct 25, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Tanya - thank you so much for your incredibly generous reply. I stumbled across your book at a bookshop in Devon earlier this year and found your description of raising young children so close to home and moving - and inspiring too, as you found a way to become a writer. I love the idea of recording my daughter and I and using that as a creative practice, while at the same time remaining alive to my own frustration at not being able to dedicate the time I want to being creative - yet.

I haven't heard of any of the writers you mention and will seek their books out, particularly Woman Running in the Mountains. Since becoming a mother I have become greedy for stories and memoirs about those early parenting years. I'm excited to read it!

Thank you for starting this project - I feel very uplifted by writing this contribution and reading your response.

Ruth xx

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It's so moving to think of my story being found by you back in my home county...

and I love that I might be on the receiving end now of many similar stories from your life in turn through this project.


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Oh Ruth... so moved by this and there is much I want to say in response! I've been laid up with bad vertigo for the last week, so tomorrow will be the first day I feel able to use the computer to respond properly to you and the others who have answered this month's prompt with similar courage and insight to you. More tomorrow. But for now, already: you have done something with those few spare minutes today that I wasn't able to back when my children were small and I was dreaming of the writer's life. You wrote something true from you life, sent it out into the world and now I and others are reading it... More tomorrow as I say, but for now: thank you xx

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Nov 3, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

"I have not dusted my bedroom table. I have not stacked the dishwasher. I have not sent the birthday parcel for my best friend which is already a month late. I have written. At least it’s a start."

Those are brilliant lines. They wrap up your piece beautifully, and speak to something that I think so many women (me included) can relate to. I also like, "...even my transformed self still wants to be myself..." And "chubby toddlerishness", and "you are perfect." So many good lines in this! I hope you find time to contribute more.

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Here, within writing.

Here, in the space where experience articulated in mind and the pressing of the computer keys brush past one another, lay quiet pockets of time.

In this sacred gap where embodied emotion is suspended, held for examination within breaths pause, alchemy occurs in the active configuration of thought meeting past, inhabiting present.

Crafting experience into the click-clack black letter signifiers of joy, pain, awe, passion, trauma and the mundane; watched over by the third eye of language and grammar - word, comma, stop; here I find my more considered cortical self.

Removed from the demands of the day, pause weds perspective.

Neurons fire from feeling, finding particular articulation.

Here, symbols of exclamation need careful application!

The exclamation mark, a sword to attention.

Here warranted?



The responsibility of choice, a chalice held reverently.

Hard won, this prize of thought sat alongside experience curates’ life folded open.

An essence put forth for consumption.

Reader, what do you make of it?

(In truth, I write mostly for me.)

The use of my prefrontal cortex tethers me to my adult self. I enter the storm of memory.

The child needs no longer be in charge.

Fragmentation recedes to quiet order as searching amongst words takes precedence.


Together, the girl and I.

The bird-like slender boned child, wide-eyed overwhelmed at the adult world where she was cast too soon, sits encased in my letter formed arms.

Quietly we look over the sea of feeling to the eyeline of the horizon, where choppy waves resolve to straight qwerty order.

Do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti.

Control amongst feeling.

Red, blue, yellow.

Agency in shape making.

Metaphors tangle – cat’s got the wool and, as an old woman by the fire I follow the thread - Ah!

Here, pleasure, satisfaction, satiation.

Dear one, let’s look, let’s deconstruct and re-craft this shit to gold.

Reordering the oft-fragmented kaleidoscope of being, an age thickened lens is raised.

As the girl tentatively trusts me to re-order the shards of experience, shifting the glass of perspective back, forth, to clear honed wholeness, a new self is constructed through rapid forming neural pathways.

Here, within writing, I birth myself.

The girl, witnessing this fresh landscape and her now tight held place within, relaxes.

Here resides the space where my arm tenderly encases her birdlike body.

Craft, consider, a breath, a note, a dash of blue, I plunge.

Here composition, dance, play.

The fluidity of water.

Linking the word, which word? to experience, I grind within this act not just the lens on the letters of the past but the eye that inhabits my now, fresh clear.

Here, I grow, upwards, outwards; breath inhaled.

Here, within discovery, envelopes of joy.

Experience metamorphosises and transcends sensation, new feeling, as word.

Petit mort lays beneath the stroke of a key. My own, others.

Here too then, power.



Built from words,

Here I am held, can hold, step forth.

In utter presence,

Here I find myself


Quiet pockets of time.

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Hello Clare - thank you so much for joining the project. And how lovely to see you and Nicola (another new arrival) reading and responding to each other's work with such generosity. This aspect of the project always moves me so: that it is not only me reading and responding to people's true tales, but an ever-growing community too. I'm in bed with truly awful vertigo today so that I'm typing this while my world spins. For this reason I haven't read your piece yet, but I wanted you to know that I will be doing so as soon as I can, and will return here to comments soon after that to let you know how I responded to it. xx

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Hi Tanya, thank you for taking the time to respond when unwell, amazing how vulnerable sharing words can be so I really appreciate it. I hope you rest well and feel better very soon xx

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Oh Clare, this is exciting, surprising writing. So many lines that I said out loud to enjoy them even more...

'watched over by the third eye of language and grammar - word, comma, stop; here I find my more considered cortical self.'

This and more...

And although our writing styles are different, I felt a shared sense of pleasure in form: in finding the punctuation, the white space, the rhythms that combine with the subject of our writing to create that third rail, the current that galvanises a story when it has the right form for the feeling.

Have you read Patti Smith's Just Kids and M Train? There's a richness to your use of language, and a rhythm, that reminds me a little of what I also respond to in her work...

I'm not curating responses to this month's theme over on the cure for sleep website as I usually do as I wanted to use my time instead to respond here more fully than I usually can - especially with those who identify stuck areas or worries in their response to the prompt.

But if you go on to write for themes in the archive - as I hope you do! - then it will be my pleasure to add your words to the collection. Thank you again for joining us here.

Tanya xx

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Thank you Tanya. Your words mean so much. I haven’t read the Pati Smith, but shall seek it out. I’ve signed up for your upcoming course (how could I not - I’ve been working sporadically on a piece called ‘The psychogeography of swimming’ for the past few years!) so am excitedly looking forward to that and to contributing further here. One question - are there any swimming spots accessible from Lumb bank?! I hope you’re feeling better. Xx

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Clare… I was missing our time at Arvon all of a sudden this afternoon, so came back here to read your piece for this other project we share. It made such an impact on me the first time, and now it is still more moving, now that I’ve read more of your writing… and heard you read from it too. How glad I am that you made the long trip from where you are to there so we could work together. Much love, Tan xxx

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How lovely to know we'll be meeting and working together soon! I will ask some of my northern wild swimmers about best spots. I won't be swimming that week as I'm battling vertigo at the moment and don't want to set it back - but will be looking forward to walking and watching you and others. xx

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Oct 18, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Losing my Words

I lost my words, somewhere in the rain soaked streets of a foreign city. Months of writing. Pages and pages, written in the corner of ever-changing cafe’s and gazing out at the never-ending darkness on long night trains to the next city. The delicate artefacts of a young woman finding her feet, tender thoughts and so much feeling; now poured out into the street like an overflowing gutter, reduced to littering nonsense.

Liberated by my new freedom I wrote easily then, briefly living out my youthful fantasies. I slept on trains, and lugged what I had with me everywhere. The notebooks must have escaped from my over-laden bag. I retraced my steps, finding them eventually strewn in night puddles, along the winding cobbled street, leading up to the castle. My last memory of them.

What would I think if I found them now? That they were clichéd and cringeworthy I’m sure, but they were free and flowing and I was young.

I still have the vintage leather boots I had been wearing, worn down at the heels from endless street wanderings. Fancying myself then as some kind of flaneur, alone in cities with beatnik literature and my precious notebooks for company.

I believed then that I would always write. That this was just the beginning of a life devoted to literature and art.

Were those my last pages with such freedom? Given over to the world so unceremoniously.

So much happened after returning home, and something of myself slipped away. My innocence lost, but more than that.

The way he chipped away at my freedom and fed my self doubt.

Life became ever more fragmented. Paragraphs became a few short lines, until just the odd phrase scrawled here and there. Bookmarks of ideas and thoughts I’d never go back to.

The focus, dedication and most sadly the belief, never returned.

And then, for a long time- nothing.

Years later, when my son was born, someone long forgotten in me was too.

So little time yet I sneak minutes like an addict, on park benches whilst he naps.

Occasionally I wince at the crime of so many squandered years. I have been both the murderer and the victim, and for a long time this tension kept me stuck, but recently a third way has emerged; I am an archeologist. Unearthing the vital spark of creative desire so deeply buried and silted over by decades of self doubt.

So, tentatively and clumsily, like his first steps, I write again.

I write to see where I find myself now.

Every word reclaims something,

particles of an alternate reality,

where I am


To something

To someone

To myself

To life

To god

I’m not sure.

Just the vague sense,

That in action a truth will reveal itself.

So I chip away



Brushing the dust off each fragment.

Piecing things back together.

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Nicola - thank you so much for joining us here with (I think) your first written piece for the project. I'm in bed today with truly awful vertigo so that it is hard to read and type. So I haven't yet read your words - but I wanted you to know already how glad I am to see you join us. I look forward to reading your words in the next day or so when I can see straight, and to returning here to comments to let you know how I responded to it. xx

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Oh that’s awful, I’m so sorry to hear. Nice of you to message. Yes my first time here as a contributor, my first public writing ever I think. Wishing you well xx

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Nov 3, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Nicola, the first part of this piece is so evocative -- I could practically see and feel the damp streets, the dim lighting, the soaked notebooks, and that sinking feeling of them being lost. I found this really powerful. It's interesting to hear about these lost journals, as I've grappled with what to do with the 30 years or so of journals I brought over with me when I moved from the US to the UK -- as you say, would the writing be "...clichéd and cringeworthy ... but they were free and flowing and I was young." This is such an interesting exploration of early writing and what it means to us, what it's value is or isn't, etc.

Plus, this: "...I sneak minutes like an addict" -- such a good line!

Thanks for sharing this.

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Hi Wendy, thank you so much for your kind comment. Yes, it's a strange dance with the past, discerning where the value lies and if it could be drawn from in a meaningful way. I'd love to know how you decide to work with your own journals. x

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This is so beautiful Nicola. I'm so glad you've found your words again.

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Oct 19, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you Clare. This is my first dip in the water sharing my writing, so nice to be greeted with kind words. I’ve just read your beautiful piece. So poetic. I loved these parts especially:

‘Here, within writing, I birth myself.’

Such a perfect line. Exactly how I feel.

And the image of you looking over the sea with your child self is so moving.

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Thank you Nicola! Also my first sharing of words and reassuring to find your kind comment as I tentatively edge into this space.

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Nicola... oh my. This is a stunning piece from you - and I hope the first of many for the project. This is the only theme where I'm not curating submissions over on the cure for sleep website, as I want to give more time to recommending texts/practices where I think people are wanting that. But if you write for any of the themes in the archive it will be a pleasure for me to curate your work there.

Back to this piece. How strange that I've read it only a week after rereading Hemingway's A Moveable Feast - do you know that book? Written at the end of his life, remembering when - like you - he was young and writing abroad. And how his first stories all got lost when his first wife Hadley brought them on the train to him. I felt the same stomach lurch at the thought of your work going missing in that way... but I feel like there's a story there for you to tell/imagine at some point, if you haven't already. What if your words were found and kept. By who, to what effect on their lives?

What you speak of next: the 'he' who took away so much of your confidence. How strongly I responded to that, it being something so many of us have experienced, if we have this urge to make something that wasn't there before. It is such a vulnerable act, that even when surrounded by those who love and protect us it costs so much. Do watch this short video made as part of the Paris Review 'My First Time' series. It's with the writer Christine Schutt. I found her way of speaking about the time she was in a bad relationship so moving that I transcribed the whole video adding in all of her gestures. To really feel what she was sharing with me/us. She had a long break between her youthful writing and its promise and her later career: I hope watching it might give you the same sense of perspective and quiet determination it gave me...


Thank you again for joining the project.

Tanya xx

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Oct 25, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you so much for this generous response Tanya, I hope you're feeling much better.

Ah yes, I have read A Moveable Feast, but it was a long time ago. The last few years I have really been drawn to the stories of women and unconsciously left men on the shelf for a bit. It’ll be interesting to read it again. It’s funny though as I remember when I read it I was so eager to know more about Hadley and hear things from her perspective; she seemed so inspiringly capable and comfortable in her skin.

I’ve just watched the Christine Schutt video - gosh so moving. There’s so much told and not said in her gestures. Very inspiring to hear about her late blossoming. I now want to read Nightwork and to see all those bottled years tumble onto the page.

Yes I’d love to work my way through some of the previous prompts on the website. This is such a wonderful platform to share words, I’m grateful to have been encouraged by you. Thank you.

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Thank you for you kinds words. Touched. And so glad to feel the project will be a place you want to spend more time in xx

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